Might As Well Do It for a Medal

For far too many Sundays over the course of a year, my running friends (Ryan, Sung) and I pound the pavement in Springdale Cemetery.  Non-runners always seem a bit shocked when they learn a portion of my weekends are spent with the dead.  Springdale has been a friend for runners for a long time.  Their crumbled roads provide the perfect terrain for those of us who prefer the hill races.  One loop is a quarter marathon and includes three massive hills that will  make your lungs burn and your legs scream uncle.  This all started when we discovered two races that call this course their home.  The Screaming Pumpkin is no longer held (link here), but the IVS Half Marathon is still running strong – and by strong I mean still being held.  The participation has always been light, but that is likely due to how tough this course is.

IVs Half Marathon 2018, Springdale Cemetery

The IVS Half is a two loop adventure through the cemetery.  That adds up to 6 … count them .. 6 impressive hill traversals and that doesn’t include the smaller rolling hills that make up the rest of the course.    After spending so much time there training, we consider the cemetery our home course.  There isn’t a turn, pothole or uneven surface we haven’t committed to memory.  Figured since we run it so often, why not get a medal for it!

IVs Half Marathon 2018, Springdale Cemetery

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out!

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Bix Cold Nixed

I cannot believe how far I’ve fallen behind on my running posts.  The Halloween event was all consuming for the last two months, but I’ve had run posts queued up since July!  There’s only one way to deal with this embarrassing output – hunker down and get’r done.  On the bright side of things, I should have zero problems with blog fodder this month (or next).  So let’s start at the front of the FIFO queue.

Bix 7 Race 2018, Davenport IA

Yep, it’s another BIX 7 in the books.  If you are counting, that should now be 16 consecutive Bix 7 runs and also marks the 16th anniversary of my decision to take up running.  I mentioned this in last year’s post, but as a quick reminder, this whole crazy running thing start with a realization that my martial arts devotion was coming to a close.  The time between injury and recovery was getting too thin for my highly physical dojo.  That is when Linda made me aware of this hilly bastard from her hometown in Davenport, IA.  Ever since then, Linda and I have been lining up to conquer Brady Street hill

Bix 7 Race 2018, Davenport IA

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out!

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Pining Away

Technically I can claim I am sticking with a theme of light to close out this month’s posts.  The last post was about a structure made for light, this post is about a bird taken with too much light.  It’s a stretch, but the best I can come up with knowing that I am officially 68 minutes from blowing a blogging streak I’ve been committed to hitting for a long long long long time.  That is why I am spending time working on this rather than trying to figure out a way to make up for not being prepared for my wife’s birthday which is in …wait for it … now 65 minutes from now.  With all the sleepless nights focused on the trail, traveling to races and trying my best to get our new well up and running, I have not had time to address her special day.  I even missed our dating anniversary this year and I never forget that.  To my credit, I did manage to arrange to get a combined birthday cake for Ron and Linda at our party without either of them knowing.  That make a +1 for Ron and Linda on the year calendar – tonight’s featured subject is another +1 on my birding check list.

Pine Warbler shot in Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to find out what bird this is and see another equally bad shot.

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Light Thy Way

After 8 hours of non-stop work, I can officially say the haunted trail is officially tore down!  It is going to be a few more days before all the batteries are removed and the decorations get stored away until next year.  The primary reason for the delay is everything has to dry out thanks to a heavy rain that started just as the party was breaking up.  We headed down for the official lighting of the flaming pumpkin and it started to sprinkle.  The tree canopy shielded the trail from the light rain, but by the time we made it back to the house it was a full on downpour for most of the remaining night.  By the way,  it isn’t a Midwest Halloween until a carved pumpkin full of Kerosene is sending 4 foot flames out the top!  Seems like a fitting time to feature another form of bright light.

Lighthouse at ?? Minnesota shot in July 2017

I am guessing one of my followers already recognized this particular lighthouse.  For those of you not familiar with it, this is the Split Rock Lighthouse.  We discovered it on our Waterfall hunting vacation along the coast of Minnesota back in July 2017.  Ironically, if I recall correctly, it was raining a lot that week as well.  Seems to be a lot of water related events seeing as we just drilled a new well a few weeks ago.  Anyway, my wife is the big waterfall photographer and planned our trip up the coast in an attempt to get some in the tin to add to her portfolio.  Think I mentioned this before, but she is a big photographer as well.  While I focus on feathers and fur, she prefers landscapes and dog agility/portraits. Every once in a while she will encroach into my domain (pretty sure she does it just to bug me).  Two can play that game hehehe.

LL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about our lighthouse adventure.

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Something Fury Comes This Way

That loud collective sigh of relieve you just heard was a result of finally getting through all the hard work that goes into putting on our annual Halloween party.  Probably logged less than 8 hours of sleep during the last three days.  Thanks for both my brothers and numerous friends from work .. .and of course Linda, we managed to get it all pulled together in the nick of time.  Once again, I broke my promise to Linda and failed to get everything set up on the haunted trail before guests started arriving.  Luckily everyone chipped in to finish getting all the batteries loaded and a few tweaks to the linkages on some of this year’s new creations.  Everything went well until the last guests departed and then the skies let loose with a steady shower for the rest of the night.  Will take some time getting everything dried out and stored away for next year.  With the party worry over, I can focus on the next crisis…

Squirrels in Kentucky April 2015

pissed off squirrels!!  No, just kidding, Squirrels are too cute to be pissed off.  Honestly, have you ever seen an angry Squirrel?  Every time I see them they are busy chasing each other around the backyard or wandering around digging holes in random spots trying to remember where they left their prize nut.  My pressing crisis is the fact it is the end of the month (Ron’s birthday as a matter of fact) and I’m short on my personal blogging quota.  That is why I’m at the keyboard at the moment and not dreaming about sugarplum fairies or next year’s Halloween props.

Squirrels at Starved Rock May 2015

As a change of pace, thought it would be fun to feature something with fur instead of feathers. These first shot comes to you courtesy of a birding trip to Kentucky back in April 2015. Unfortunately, I am not up on all my Squirrel species. Thanks to growing up in the Heart of Illinois, I spent much of my years up until college thinking there was just one type of Squirrel. That would be the Eastern Grey Squirrel.  When I started branching out into the world, I noticed there are actually more than one species, yet all cute as can be.  The shot above came from Starved Rock and based on my untrained eye, looks to be the same Eastern Gray variety.

Hit he jump to see a couple more varieties captured on our birding escapades.

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Bet the House

What’s the old adage, “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated”.  Yes, I’m still breathing, but to be honest, I am wearing down fast.  I’ve commented a lot about my busy schedule as of late and we are now in the pinnacle of stress and deliverables.  I am in the middle of a 4 half marathon race stretch (in a little over 6 weeks) and more pressing at the moment is our huge Halloween Haunted Trail event is this Saturday night.  I’ll catch you up if the total lack of sleep doesn’t take me out before then.  My apologies to all my blogger friends for not getting to all your posts for a while now – promise will get caught up as soon as Sunday makes it here.  For now, need to get another task out of the way – introducing my little red friend from Colorado.

House Finch shot at Colorado ?? In May 2014

That colorful bird is called a House Finch.  I found it while hanging out at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds which I think is technically in Golden, but it is just outside Denver, Colorado.   Linda and I were out there to run our furry children at the Teacup Agility Nationals back in  May 2014.

House Finch shot at Colorado ?? In May 2014
Hit the jump to read more about the House Finch.

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A Better Gander Pt 2 of 2

Had an extremely productive night tonight.  Ron was able to stop by on his way back to Chicago and help me out with some Halloween animatronics I’ve been working on for this year’s haunted trail.  He was able to improve the sound on my Clown in the Box from last year (link here) and helped work out the kinks on my latest project Nightwing.  This new one uses a linear actuator and some fairly complicated linkages.  Will add the build details here once that gets finished off. Also have some other new props in the works – shaping up to be another fun trail this year.  Since it is going to be a bit hectic around here as the month progresses, figured I’d go ahead and get the second post of the Gander Mountain series out of the way. Going to start with the prize find from our first visit to Gander back in May of this year.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

Mr. Red-Eye represents a +1 to my list. That colorful eye, white undertail feathers and the black downward curved bill indicates this medium sized bird is a Black-Billed Cuckoo.  These birds generally range in the eastern half of the US expanding a bit into Canada and then down into the eastern half of South America. A fairly broad range for a bird I’ve only seen twice now.  Even Cornell mentions how elusive and secluded this species is.  You might be able to hear them foraging through the tree branches looking for Caterpillars – getting eyes on and much less a focus point is a difficult task at best.  My first encounter was up at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (or as I call it the bunker prairie link here).  I was able to get a few shots in the tin back then, but those pictures still need to be processed – those were really far away and not likely to yield better shots.  Instead, using this encounter as my official +1. The shot below gives a little better view of the white under tail and that ominous blood red eye.  This Cuckoo should be named the official mascot of late night bingers.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

Since this is the first time this bird has appeared here, wanted to grab an interesting tidbit as a takeaway.  These Cuckoos love them spiny Caterpillars – see the first shot for proof.  Most predators are deterred by those spines, however Cuckoos gobble them up like Peeps during Easter (maybe that analogy only applies to me).  Cornell states that those spines end up sticking to their stomach lining.  Periodically, the Cuckoo will resolve this discomfort by coughing up their stomach lining in one giant pellet.  My apologies if you are having breakfast while reading this – nature be crazy ha.

Hit the jump to see more items from the tin that day.

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A Better Gander Pt 1 of 2

Greetings from the wetlands everyone!  If you recall, last weekend my brother Ron and I were planning to do some birding near the Illinois-Wisconsin border.  My youngest poodle was running in an agility competition up in Spring Grove and we were camping at our favorite state park up there, Chain O’ Lakes.  Since Ron lives in Chicago it’s a fairly short drive to meet up and hunt down some birds.  I also mentioned we have the uncanny ability to force it to rain simply by planning the outing.  True to course, IT RAINED.. in fact it rained before we left, then rained on Saturday and again on Sunday and basically ever since.  Now, this also may be due to us just having a new well drilled – Murphy’s Law for sure.  The good news is we were able to get our birding in between the storms on Sunday!  One of the places we decided to visit was Gander Mountain Forest Preserve near Antioch IL.  Last year was an awesome outing netting a ton of birds and even a  +1.  However, this year … TOTALLY SUCKED!  Might go into how awful it was in the second of this two part post, but for now I thought I’d simply go back to our previous visit back in May and finally process and post some of those finds.

First off, the smallest find of the day.

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

We caught this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird hanging out on the right side of the main loop. This is pretty much the only Hummer we have in the Midwest so no trouble ID’ing it.  Note I will mention that it was mighty hard to get in the tin thanks to all the trees and limbs that wanted to grab focus over its tiny stature.   Near the start of the trail, we were met with Mr. Noisy.  Telling you, these Catbirds can make quite a racket.  Since they are of the Mockingbird family, they’ll blast away at whatever new song they learned to mimic.  If you wait long enough, they’ll go back to their standard mewing giving them away instantly

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

Hit the break to see ore finds from the Gander trip.

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A Western in the Estes

Going with a quick post tonight.  We’ll be heading to one of my favorite birding locations in the northern part of the state for the holiday weekend – hoping to meet my brother Ron up there and see what we can get in the tin.  It seems like every time we head up there to bird their lakes and streams they get a multitude of storms that either outright flood the Fox River or squish up the place – neither situation ideal if you are trying to walk the banks.  Of course, for those of us on the well the rain is a welcome sight especially since it has been pretty dry lately.  Just had an interesting thought – maybe we can turn the ability to make it rain into a service.  You call us up, tell us when you want/need some rain and we’ll make it happen for a fair but hefty chunk of cash.  Then I simply call up Ron, schedule a trip to the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park and pump up our bank accounts while enjoying one of our favorite pastimes.  Will putting some noodle time on that – for now, decided to feature a bird that has already made its debut at Intrigued.

Western Kingbird shot at Rocky Mountain National Park, May 2014

hit the jump to see a couple more shots of this yellow hued bird.

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Little Miss Yellow

Greetings All!  Once again I have to face the shame from lack of blogging production.  I’ll spare you the details since I’ve already mentioned my current workload in previous posts.  Taking a positive position I was able to break away from the toils of the day (or rather the wicked humidity of the day) to put out a quick post.  Back to the birds for today’s featured critter.

Female Common Yellowthroat shot at Jubilee State Park IL August 2014

Kind of cute don’t you think?  This little girl comes to us from a few years back.  I was doing some hiking in my favorite park – Jubilee College State Park all the way back in August of 2014.  I’ve featured this park in numerous posts being as it is where I spend a good part of my spare time either training for runs (every other day) or catch a bit of hiking or birding.  Safe to say I am familiar with just about every inch of that park.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt it is only a mile from my house.  From a birding perspective, there are several good spots in the park depending on what you happen to be looking for.  Want Eastern Bluebirds or Indigo Buntings head up to the flats near the pavilion areas and simply close your eyes and take in their sweet songs from every direction.  Prefer raptors or woodpeckers, hang at the edge of the tree lines along the fields or make your way through the wooded trails.  It pretty much has an ideal environment for every Midwestern bird species somewhere in its 3,200 acres.

Female Common Yellowthroat shot at Jubilee State Park IL August 2014

Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is.

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